From the invasion of the Vikings to the present day, the history of Ireland is an endless tribute to the stoic, unbreakable spirit of its citizens. Our little island’s past is rich, diverse and interesting, with a huge treasure trove of historical sites to visit and learn from. Below, we have listed the top 5 historical places in Ireland. These towns are steeped in centuries of history and culture, which makes them a major focal point for tourists to come and learn about Ireland’s diverse past. Read on and educate yourself on some of the key locations of Irish antiquity.
Kinsale, Co. Cork
Kinsale is a coastal town in the west of Ireland, in County Cork. The town has a significant past spanning hundreds of years, and has seen some of the bloodiest battles in Irish history. Parts of the Nine Years War (1594-1603) were fought here, between the ruling Irish Chieftains of the time (Hugh O’Neill being the most famous) and the Kingdom of England. The ultimate battle of this war was the infamous battle of Kinsale in 1601. The Spanish allies of Ireland accidentally landed in Kinsale instead of Ulster, and a bloody fight ensued, ending in victory for England. Another important historical event linked to Kinsale is the sinking of the Lusitania. On May 7th 1915 during the First World War, the RMS Lusitania was sank off the coast of Kinsale by German submarines. This event is the reason that the US decided to enter the war. Like the majority of interesting historical places in Ireland, Kinsale’s colourful past is preserved and displayed in the form of tours, museums and attractions throughout the town, such as Charles Fort, Don & Barry’s Historic Stroll Through Old Kinsale, James’s Fort and Kinsale Regional Museum. More info on Kinsale is available here.
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Derry/Londonderry City, Co. Derry
The city of Derry/Londonderry has seen more than its fair share of conflict, making it one of the more interesting historical places in Ireland. Derry was a backdrop for many important historical events spanning from the 14th century Plantation of Ulster all the way up to the more recent Troubles, and anyone interested in Irish history will know something of Derry. Up until recent decades, Derry’s most well-known attribute was that of a conflict-zone. The 1689 Siege of Derry, the 1920s Irish War of Independence, World War II and the 1969 Battle of the Bogside all had their day in Derry. You can rest assured that this city will not be left out of the history books for many decades to come! Today, the atmosphere in the city is the polar opposite of what it once was known for; in 2013, Derry was named the UK’s 2013 City of Culture. Due to the extensiveness of its back-story, Derry has many historical monuments and attractions to admire. The City Walls, The Peace Bridge, The Museum of Free Derry and many other activities and sights dedicated to telling Derry’s tale. For more info on Derry/Londonderry, click here.
Wexford, Co. Wexford
Wexford was founded by Viking settlers in 800 AD, with the first recorded raid on the town being documented in 819 AD. Since then the town has borne witness to many significant historical events. Besieged by the King of Leinster Dermot MacMurrough in 1169, the town was invaded by the Normans and its Viking-Irish inhabitants were forced to accept defeat. It was sacked and burned by Oliver Cromwell’s men in 1649, and eventually provided the backdrop for the 1798 Irish Rebellion. It’s not hard to see that Wexford’s past is steeped in bloodshed. But it wasn’t all guts and glory – Wexford enjoyed the status of a successful port town, up until the 20th century. It was also the motherland of John F. Kennedy’s paternal grandfather, putting it on a long list of historical places in Ireland that feature the ancestral home of a US President. Naturally, it comes as no surprise that Wexford town today has many historical attractions on offer to visitors, including the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience, The 1798 Rebellion Centre, The John F. Kennedy Arboretum and Vinegar Hill. For more info on Wexford town, click here.
Trim, Co. Meath
Trim is a town in County Meath. A town known for its historical connections to both St. Patrick and the Normans, there is no shortage of stories to tell about Trim. At an early date, a monastery was founded in the town by St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. This was left in the hands of St. Loman. The monastery suffered many arson attacks and subsequent rebuildings throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, before it was eventually dissolved by King Henry VIII during the Reformation. Trim went on to become one of the most important Hiberno-Norman settlements of the Middle Ages, and to this day the largest example of a Norman castle in Ireland stands there, making it a very important destination in terms of historical places in Ireland. King John’s Castle was built by Hugh de Lacy in the 12th century. Today, the Castle is open to the public for tours and in recent decades was used as a filming location for the film Braveheart. The Yellow Steeple of the monastery is one of the town’s biggest historical attractions and can be seen for miles around. The Trim Town Walls, a small section of the town’s original walls, also stands today. For more info on Trim, click here.
Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary
Soloheadbeg is a townland in County Tipperary. Though it may be the smallest town on our list of the top historical places in Ireland, the historical importance and relevance of Soloheadbeg is indisputable, as it was here that the first act of the Irish War of Independence took place. On January 21st 1919, the Soloheadbeg Ambush occurred. A shipment of explosives being transported by RIC policemen was ambushed by members of the Irish Volunteers. Two policemen were killed in the ambush, and the shots that took their lives are regarded as the first shots fired in the War of Independence. The history of Soloheadbeg doesn’t begin and end with this event, however. In 968 AD, the area was the battlefield for the defeat of King Ivar (a Viking king of Limerick) by King Mahon of Thomond and his brother Brian Ború. This became known as the Battle of Sulcoit. Today, monuments and tributes to Soloheadbeg’s history stand erected throughout the townland. The Sean Treacy Memorial Pool contains many photos and memorabilia from the War of Independence and is open to the public for viewing. The Soloheadbeg War Memorial was erected on the site of the ambush and is also available for viewing. For more info on Soloheadbeg, click here.